The problem with a .500 team is that they’re exactly as bad as they are good. The Giants can look like a good team, and they’ve been a good team for parts of the season. They’ve also been a bad team in equal parts of the year. Tonight, they were a bad team. They didn’t hit, they didn’t pitch, and they didn’t even defend well. The only thing they did better than the Padres tonight was run the bases, and that’s only because the Padres ran the bases like complete nincompoops.
It’s amazing this game remained as close as it did for so long, because the Padres were hammering the ball off Chris Stratton and aside from the first two batters of the game, the Giants didn’t do anything against Clayton Richard.
It used to be that the Giants gave up the lead in the first inning and couldn’t find a way to take it back. Now, they’re in a habit of taking a lead in the first inning and not being able to add on. It happened twice in Miami and it happened again tonight.
They almost didn’t score in the first inning. They were primed to waste a runner-at-third less-than-two-out situation. Gorkys Hernandez hit a lead-off double to deep center and Buster Posey advanced him to third with a fly ball in the same spot. The Padres brought the infield in which was a bold move considering the Giants murdered the first two pitches they put in play. It paid off though because Andrew McCutchen and Nick Hundley grounded out. In between, however, Clayton Richard threw a pitch to the back stop allowing Hernandez to score. It was as if Richard felt guilty for not giving up a run when two balls were hit about 400 feet off him.
As strange as it seemed at the time, Andy Green’s decision to bring the infield in proved prescient. After Hernandez’s double, Richard retired the next sixteen batters in a row. His perfect stretch ended when Hernandez hit another double on a grounder down the left field line. Even then, Richard had him struck out.
Richard struck out a modest four batters in six innings. How he carved through the Giants’ lineup is that he kept the ball on the ground. Hernandez’s lead-off double and Posey’s fly ball in the first were the only balls the Giants put in the air against Richard. Other than that, he induced eleven ground balls. Richard has the highest ground ball rate among all pitchers in 2018 (Ty Blach being second), but good gravy.
Meanwhile, Chris Stratton kept the Padres in the air. Stratton wasn’t fooling anyone tonight. He got just seven whiffs while giving up nine hits. At least three of the outs he got were balls hit to the warning track. He didn’t pitch well, but he pitched effectively. He gave up just three runs in six innings despite giving up a ton of loud contact.
The Padres finally took the runs they were owed in the sixth off defensive misplays. Stratton hesitated to cover the base on a ground ball to first, allowing Cory Spangenberg to reach base. He eventually scored on a ball in the dirt. Freddy Galvis broke for second and Nick Hundley tried to throw him out, but Alen Hanson and Brandon Crawford were late covering second and the ball went into centerfield.
Richard only threw 79 pitches, somehow. Green took him out after he gave up a ground ball single to McCutchen. It was the first of four pitching changes in the seventh inning. Whenever I hear some stray rumor about Rob Manfred floating around a limit on pitchers used in a game, I get sweaty and angry. I start listing off reasons why it’s a dumb, unnecessary idea including (1) there aren’t that many pitching changes in the middle of an inning (2) what happens if the final pitcher can’t get anybody out? Do they throw eighty pitches in the last two innings? (3) if pitching changes are taking too long just make bullpen carts mandatory and give them NOS or something.
But then Andy Green took out Jose Castillo after he threw one pitch and now I’m thinking doing away bullpens all together. You get one pitcher. If he gets tired, your team forfeits. No more of this going lefty-righty-lefty-righty in June between two teams that aren’t going to make the playoffs. When Bruce Bochy did this in the playoffs it was fine because it was the playoffs and the Giants won World Serieses.
I would have been okay with the Giants tying the game and it going another fourteen innings. The Padres would have run out actual pitchers by the tenth and be forced to have Manuel Margot pitch after they try to put in Jose Castillo in disguise.
The Giants weren’t meant to tie it, though because in the eighth inning when the Giants were down by a run and building a rally, Gorkys Hernandez worked a walk, but then struck out.
In a recent interview with retired umpire Dale Scott on Effectively Wild, Jeff Sullivan and Ben Lindbergh asked if he or other umpires ever gave corrective calls. In other words, if they know they missed a call, would they try to make it up to the pitcher by calling a strike a ball or a ball a strike. Scott said no, that didn’t happen, but it seems like that’s what happened with Hernandez. He should have struck out in the sixth but got a double. He should have walked in the eighth but struck out. I guess it evened out, but I’d rather things get called correctly.
This was the only thing from tonight’s game that brought me joy:
The Giants fell back below .500 which they’ve done a lot this year, and they’ll continue to do so because they’ll claw their way back up in a day or two. And then they’ll fall back down. And then they’ll claw back up. And then they’ll fall back down. And…